Ecodorp Bergen

Army Land Turns into the First Ecovillage in Holland

Two and a half years ago a group in Holland started the initiative for an Ecovillage. Up until now, no ecovillage has been created because, in densely populated Holland, land is scarce and therefore expensive. The building industry is ruled by commercial builders and limiting building rules are difficult to overcome. In a process that was a real thriller, a new group has succeeded in buying land from the government - and a property that what used to train war will be used to create community and peace. Fredjan Twigt reports.

Photo: after the ritual opening of the gate on 30 May 2013 and barefooted first steps in an unknown future we sit on one of the three huge concrete platforms next to a restored bombcrater where yellow flowers show their beauty.

After looking for a long time we found a fifteen hectare piece of land in Northwest Holland, about 50 km north of Amsterdam and 5 km from the coast. It was formerly a military airport, with three big platforms, surrounded by buildings and high trees, bordering a 100ha nature reserve.

During the common process we learned a lot. The group often went through hard processes. We defined our vision, mission, and goals, and started using Sociocracy as a decision making tool - which was a great help. During the meetings we sat in a circle, leaving the empty middle for creation. Getting to know GEN, Dragon Dreaming, and visiting other ecovillages abroad helped us.

By the time we were ready, the land was officially for sale to the highest bidder. The government published the conditions. A large part of them was cleaning the polluted area and removing the buildings, totalling ten thousand square metres. When we started looking at the land prices, about six million euro were mentioned, excluding the costs for cleaning. A sum entirely out of our reach!

We decided not to focus on the financial aspects particularly, but first develop our group and the idea. So we had to learn about cleaning the land. We started a political lobby campaign, organised informational evenings, invited interested people to support us and become our friends, made a newsletter and got to know each other better. Our group then had twenty people with an active core of about eight people.

On the 12th of May we submitted our plan to the bidding process and a separate envelope with the bid. At 3pm on the 16th of May judging started in the Kantina on the land. After the plans were judged in order to see if they met the conditions, the lawyer was going to announce the highest bid. He had received six bids. About fifty people were present including our group. The lawyer announced that three bidders did not meet the demands so they left. He opened the first of the remaining three envelopes: the bid was not valid because of added conditions. Two envelopes left, and total silence. The next envelope was also invalid for similar reasons. One left, and this turned out to be ours!

Our hearts raced at 200 beats per minute. Yes, we did meet the initial conditions: it was the only valid bid. But there was one further condition: the bid had to be higher than the bottom price, which was not known. Although we had heard of the price of some millions, our offer had been exactly €123 456: one hundred and twenty three thousand, four hundred and fifty six euros.

Then the second miracle happened. This ridiculous sum was above the bottom price. The land was ours! We jumped, hugged, cried, screamed. Nobody ever expected us to win the bidding, but we did! A real mystery for everybody, not least the five professionals present.

So, the first ecovillage in Holland can start. On Thursday 30th May at 13:27 local time (according to our astrologist: a beautiful constellation for an ecovillage) we signed the contract, got a big bunch of keys, and opened the gate with a ritual to get to know our just born baby. The land was fenced and was only open two times for visiting, and it had not been used for over 6 years, so we will slowly get to know it and feel it.

The news is spreading and we have had a lot of positive feedback, and made many new friends. It shows us that the time is ripe for ecovillages. And we are too. A big clean-up job and negotiation with the government is waiting for us but we trust this will all be overcome. As a start we can live here now with ten people. We will receive visitors, host festivals and make a start.
Our plan is to eventually live with a group of eighty people, including children, with autonomy in energy, water and food, and a special attention to art, culture and education. We are really looking forward to it.

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17.06.2013